With Christmas here, the Suffolk County Police Department shared tips for a safe, happy and healthy holiday season and ask residents to consider the following information as they celebrate today's holiday:
Decorating Safety: Each year, fires occurring during the holiday season claim the lives of more than 400 people, injure 1,650 more and cause nearly $1 billion in damages. By following some of these basic tips, individuals can greatly reduce their chances of becoming a holiday causality. Once ignited, Christmas trees can rapidly fill a room with fire and deadly gases. Tree safety begins with the selection of a tree. Needles on fresh trees are green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the tree trunk should be sticky to the touch. If needles are falling off, the tree should not be purchased. When placing a tree, do not put it close to a heat source such as a heating vent or fireplace—the heat will dry it out, causing it to become easily ignited. Ensure the tree has adequate water at all times, do not leave it up for longer than two weeks, and never dispose of tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood burning stove.
When decorating, only use non-flammable or flame retardant decorations and ensure holiday lights aren't damaged and the wiring isn't frayed. Never overload electrical outlets and don't link more than three light strands. Holiday lighting wires should never be warm to the touch. Thousands of people are seriously injured or killed each year in falls off roofs and ladders, so when decorating (or cleaning the gutters) be sure to practice ladder safety—use an appropriate sized ladder for the job and only place it on level, secure footing. When working outside, steer clear of power lines. Remember, never leave holiday lights illuminated if they are unattended and never use lit candles to decorate!
Selecting a Responsible Gift: Gift givers are urged to select gifts that are appropriate for the age and maturity level of the person for whom they are intended. Games that promote the consumption of alcoholic beverages are never appropriate for underage persons, nor are games that promote the excessive consumption of alcohol by any person. The following discussion relating to the purchase of toy guns, paintball guns and videogames is provided for your consideration:
Toy Guns: Toy guns are popular gifts during the holiday season. Unfortunately, there are real dangers associated with giving a realistic-looking gun as a gift. Toy guns that mimic real guns pose real problems for two reasons. First, toy guns are often used by individuals to commit actual crimes, like robbery. Secondly, realistic-looking toy guns can be misinterpreted by police officers as a threat. If you purchase a toy gun as a gift, please remember NYS law prohibits the sale of imitation guns without proper markings distinguishing them as toys. Toy guns must have, at a minimum, a large orange stripe at least one inch in width running the entire length of the barrel. When buying a toy gun, please be sure this standard is met and help preserve the safety of our children and the police officers dedicated to protecting them.
Paintball Guns: Paintballing can be an entertaining activity if done properly and responsibly. Regrettably, some individuals use paintball guns to unlawfully shoot at individuals, vehicles or property, making them subject to arrest for reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, assault or more serious crimes. It is unlawful for a person younger than 16 years of age to possess some types of paintball guns and it is unlawful for anyone of any age to possess a paintball gun on school grounds without appropriate written permission. Improper use and unlawful possession of paintball guns is not a matter to be taken lightly—parents are asked to use sound judgment in purchasing paintball guns as gifts.
Go Carts, Powered Scooters, ATVs: Each year, thousands of people are injured and killed in accidents involving the use of these vehicles, which many parents erroneously believe are "toys." New York State law and local ordinances are clear regarding these vehicles; it is unlawful for them to be operated on roadways, sidewalks, most local parcels of public property, and private property without the express permission of the owner. Using these vehicles unlawfully or unsafely not only unnecessarily exposes the rider to the possibility of severe injury or death, but can also result in fines and the vehicle's impoundment. Parents are strongly discouraged from purchasing these items for their children unless they have lawful access to property with safe and adequate room to ride. In all instances, appropriate helmets must be worn and applicable portions of state and local laws must be followed—these items are not toys.
Video Games: Video games are also popular as gifts during the holiday season. While many video games may be fun, educational and appropriate for all ages, some games contain graphic violence that may not be appropriate for certain age groups or maturity levels. To ensure your gift is age appropriate, it is a good idea to research and review the content of each video game before purchasing. All video games are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for violence—a rating that should supplement, but not replace, each consumer's decision on the appropriateness of each game as a gift.
When shopping, please do not unlawfully park in the fire zones or handicapped spaces. Fines are substantial and worse yet you may cause inconvenience or injury to others by doing so! Stay alert when parking and shopping—always park in well lit areas and look around your vehicle before exiting for suspicious vehicles or people and always lock your vehicle, never leaving valuables or packages in view. Be sure to note the location of your vehicle in the parking lot so you can conveniently return when done shopping and never leave stores with your hands full of packages—instead have your keys in hand and carry a whistle or other sounding device. Always be aware of your surroundings, check for persons loitering near your vehicle when returning, and always check your vehicles interior before entering.
Holiday Celebrations and Drinking and Driving: Recently there have been numerous fatalities on the roads caused by drunk drivers. We cannot stress enough the importance of designating a driver BEFORE you attend a holiday celebration where you will be drinking alcohol. The police department will be deploying extra STOP DWI patrols this holiday season—PLEASE DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE and discourage friends and family from doing so.